OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington state has auctioned off its liquor stores. And private retailers are set to take over the sale of spirits June 1st. But Thursday the state Supreme Court heard arguments in a lawsuit aimed at putting a halt to the changeover.
A state liquor store landlord and the Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention are behind the lawsuit to overturn Initiative 1183. They claim the Costco-backed liquor privatization measure from last year violates the state’s single subject rule for voter initiatives.
Attorney Mike Subit also argues the language Washington voters saw on their ballots was inaccurate. He alleges the term “license fees” was used to disguise what in fact are new taxes that will be passed along to liquor consumers.
“This was taxes, but Costco didn’t want the voters to know that,” Subit says.
Costco attorneys attended the oral arguments at the Washington Temple of Justice, but refused comment after the hearing.
State attorneys argue the measure does have a single subject: booze. And therefore meets constitutional muster.
The challengers to the new law hope for a quick ruling from Washington’s high court. If the initiative is struck down, it’s unclear how the state would reverse course at this point.
Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network
Costco officials leave the Washington Supreme Court following oral arguments in a lawsuit to repeal I-1183, privatizing liquor sales. Photo by Austin Jenkins